Boy jumps into ocean during 2012 JawsFest: The Tribute on Martha's Vineyard amidst increased shark sightings.

Boy jumps into ocean during 2012 JawsFest on Martha's Vineyard amidst increased shark sightings.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

America Jumps the Shark

Hoo boy. For those of you packing for Costa Rica, a few words, mostly not ours, after this week's much-hyped, twisted-as-fuck debacle of an Old White Men Thunderdome. Yes, Biden was awful: tired, mumbling, fumbling. Mr. 34-Count Aspiring Fascist was worse: He lied, babbled, deflected, lied again. Most dispiriting, the media persists in covering this life-or-death tale of the fate of our democracy in terms of "performance." Thus, tragically, maddeningly, does the shady host of friggin' Celebrity Apprentice win again.

The run-up to Thursday's misadventure was frantic, toxic, ludicrous. Talking Points' Josh Marshall - hat tip for the Thunderdome - noted that, unlike the formulaic blandness of most past debates, the presence of a shark-and-showerhead-obsessed sociopath with a "pro-wrestling mentality" made this event wildly unpredictable, which is "Donald Trump’s happy place." Given the two men's ages, histories and proclivities, the expectations were idiotically skewered. Level-headed types noted that if Biden flubbed a word or name or paused too long, pundits would play it on a loop all day and say Biden's too old; if the Person-Woman-Man-Shark-Narcissist guy showed up wearing a diaper with a pacifier in his mouth, talked gibberish the whole time and took a dump on stage, they'd praise his change in tone, admire how manly he looked in the diaper, and celebrate his newly presidential persona.The Daily Show actually played some of it: Biden had to avoid any senior moment, stay engaged, stay awake and "remain upright"; Trump just had to "portray normalness."

For weeks, GOP flunkies have labored to lower expectations for a famously unhinged candidate forever whining about being a victim of someone - Marxists, communists, women, windmills, fake news, mean judges ad nauseum. With the radical leftists of CNN moderating, said squirrely MAGA Mike Johnson, "We know it's not a fair fight." He's "not just going up against Biden but the CIA," ranted Fox' Jesse Waters, "who's lurking in the shadows and trying to kneecap him like the last two times." "I have so much faith in him," gushed Klan Mom "close adviser" MTG of def the guy to "take this global cable (sic) of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, "but he's walking into an arena filled with people who want to MURDER him!" - all for being what thug and sexual abuser Corey Lewandowski calls, "the villain, the straight white man." Many predicted he'd back out, using a variety of excuses: bone spurs, covfefe, "Only suckers and losers debate," "Many people are saying a debate is unnecessary because I'm winning so much," "I've never met that man - Obama - and he isn't even my type."

Still, he kept blustering. He derided Biden's reported prepping for the debate by "standing up for 90 minutes," while "I've been preparing for it my whole life," in between criminal activities. He gave rambling interviews of "pristine word salad" - "We lose hundreds of, think of it, hundreds of thousands of people dying at our border, coming through our border every year, because of our border" - leading to the query, "WHAT IN THE DEMENTIA IS THIS?" when "millions of people confuse whatever the hell it is with POTUS material." Meanwhile, CNN preposterously argued meek Jake Tapper and Dana Bush would "use all tools at their disposal (to) ensure a civilized discussion" except for the small matter of foregoing real-time fact-checking for a pathological liar, malignant narcissist and cognitive wizard who literally doesnothing but lie, babble, wander, or make up facts that suit his lunatic fancy of the moment. Given the event's tired format, lame parameters and horse-race-and-circus-likecoverage, "The choice the debate presented was, 'Hell no' vs. 'Oh no.'"

Alas, we got both. Biden, it's widely agreed, "didn't deliver." He looked and sounded old - "too old" - rasped, paused, faltered, mixed up words, stared into space or at least appeared to on an unhelpful split screen, and fumbled what should have been fierce defenses of his substantial achievements against, after all, a feckless, incoherent, convicted madman. Virtually everything he said was a lie: Democrats execute babies after they’re born, everyone wanted Roe v. Wade overturned, "we had a great border" and no terrorist attacks, the deficit is at its highest ever, Biden will quadruple your taxes, migrants/ border/ crime/ bad guys. Mixed in were deranged non-sequiturs: Asked how he'd combat opioid addiction, he veered to say his administration "bought the best dog.” He boasted about winning at golf - "You have to be quite smart and (be) able to hit the ball a long way - I can do it" - claimed Biden's strengths - he did so much like tax cuts that saw the deficit soar but they paid for themselves! - and, irony alert, accused him of his failings: "This man is a criminal." Say what?

"This was not a debate," wrote Heather Cox Richardson, but an exercise in gaslighting known as the Gish gallop, a rhetorical technique natural to huckster Trump whereby someone throws out a flood of lies and bullshit that can overwhelm an opponent, especially a stutterer, when there's no fact-checking mechanism in place. Biden, she notes, needed to prove to the 70% of voters who think he's too old that he isn't, that he has the mental acuity to do the job. That he did, sometimes listing facts, numbers, accomplishments so fast it was hard to catch it all. But because our politics have become a showboat of shallow, grandstanding, performative crap, of theater over truth, a craven media againfell for the Trump narrative of strutting dominance, accompanied by a deluge of lies and criminal feints they barely mentioned, over a quiet, raspy guy who sometimes mumbled. Biden can do the job, many argue; he just doesn't always look or sound like he can - sorrowful evidence, writes Richardson, that "stage performance has trumped substance in (our) political coverage."

And so the pundits and networks jumped in, "pawing at the carcass of a debate debacle" and rushing to suggest Biden isn't up to the task, not of actually being president but "being (able to) make a clear and compelling case against the most flawed politician in history" - and a traitorous fascist who shouldn't be up there in the first place. "American media is fucked," said one sage of panicked calls for Biden to drop out. Who called on Trump to drop out when he was convicted of 34 felonies? Or found liable for rape? Or covered up stealing classified documents, declined to say he'd accept election results, threatened judges, dined and wined Nazis, befriended insurrectionists, spewed gibberish, lied about....everything? "Don't day trade politics - it's a sucker's game," says former GOP operative Stuart Stevens. "A guy from Queens out on bail bragged about overturning Roe v. Wade, said in public he didn’t have sex with a porn star, defended tax cuts for billionaires, defended Jan. 6 and called America the worst country in the world. That guy isn’t going to win this race.”

After the lousy night, Dems tried to rally. Gavin Newsome stressed the disparity between the two men of "daylight and darkness." John Fetterman, elected after his own disastrous debate, told everyone to, "Chill the fuck out." Political analyst Monique Pressley looked beyond "a debate performance against a pathological lying sociopath": "The proof of Biden’s ability to run the country is the fact that he is running it. Successfully." And Biden, weirdly, seemed to revert to his often-feisty self, who mid-debate snarled Trump "has the morals of an alley cat," once it was over. "Where was this guy?" it was asked when he told a post-debate crowd, "He's just a liar - I've never heard so much malarkey" and repeated the native-to-John-Wayne movie line about "lyin' dog-face pony soldiers." The next day he was back to concede, "I know I'm not a young man, to state the obvious...But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong...I know how to get things done...When you get knocked down, you get back up." In a woefully relative universe, let it be enough.

Update: "Do not obey autocracy in advance." Also: Biden: 1, Carnival Barker: 0.

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